U.K. Dairy Exports to EU Plunge 90% as Food Sales Drop

U.K. exports of products such as milk and cheese to the European Union collapsed by more than 90% during the first quarter from a year earlier, according to figures compiled by the Food and Drink Federation based on tax data.

In what the trade group said was a “disaster” for the industry, overall food and drink shipments to the EU in the period were down 2 billion pounds ($2.7 billion) from the corresponding three months in 2019. The U.K. formally left the EU’s trade bloc in early 2020.

The figures are “a very clear indication of the scale of losses that U.K.” manufacturers face in the longer-term due to new trade barriers with the EU,” Dominic Goudie, the head of international trade at the Food and Drink Federation, said in a statement on Friday.

The U.K.’s increased cost of trading with the EU and significant customs delays since Brexit are driving the downturn, according to the statement. The data from U.K. tax officials show first-quarter exports of fish fell by more than half and whisky slumped by almost a third compared with the same period in 2019.

Sales of British cheeses such as Westcombe cheddar collapsed 72% from 151 million pounds in the first quarter of that year to 42.8 million pounds in the corresponding period for 2021. Sales of chocolate fell from 157.3 million pounds to 99.3 million pounds over the same time-frame.

Exports performed better outside EU markets, clawing back to pre-pandemic levels for countries such as China, Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea. The U.S. has also suspended tariffs on goods including cashmere, Stilton cheese and Scotch whisky, which is expected to improve exports to the country.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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